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Oregon's Domestic and Foreign Exports
by Erik A Knoder
Published Apr-5-2012

Thanks to its coastal location, Oregon has a history of exporting valuable products to foreign markets. From Captain Robert Gray exporting furs to China to in the late 1700s to millions of board feet of Port Orford cedar exported to Japan in the 1960s, exports have been a big part of Oregon's economy.

The current records for exports go back to 1999. In that year, Oregon exported about $10.5 billion worth of goods. Exports grew moderately until 2006, when their value jumped by nearly $3 billion to $15.3 billion. In 2011, the state shipped more nearly $18.3 billion in electronics, agricultural products, machinery and other commodities to a host of foreign buyers. (By comparison, foreign imports to Oregon were about $16.5 billion in 2011.) Asian countries are major players on Oregon's roster of international customers with China as the largest ($3.2B) single recipient of Oregon's commodities since 2009. Canada received the second-highest value ($2.7B) of shipments from the state in 2011.

Data about foreign exports get plenty of attention in an economy that's increasingly going global. And because export data come from customs records required for cross-border shipments they're detailed and fairly current, and compiled by the U.S Census Bureau. By comparison, data on domestic shipments are sparse: the most recent figures, released in 2009, come from the 2007 Economic Census. But don't let the domestic data's more limited detail and availability fool you. In 2007, Oregon shipped goods worth more than $147 billion to domestic buyers (Graph 2). That was roughly $63 billion in products that traveled around the state, $19 billion shipped to California, $22 billion to Washington, and more than $40 billion to other states. In the same year, Oregon shipped just over $16.5 billion in goods to foreign countries - about 11 percent of the state's total domestic shipment value.

Graph 1
Oregon's domestic shipment values in billions, 2007
Graph 2
Oregon's domestic shipment values in billions 2007
Export Commodities
The major export commodities generally reflected Oregon's major industries (Graph 3). In 2011, Oregon exported about $6.5 billion in computer and electronics; $2.8 billion in agricultural products and $1.7 billion in chemicals to foreign countries. The stated value of exported chemicals may be slightly misleading: a significant portion of the value is from the export of potash that is mined in Canada and shipped by rail to Portland for export. Clearly, Oregon has valuable trade networks both at home and overseas, but domestic customers are by far the largest source of sales.

Graph 3
Oregon's foreign exports in billions 2011
Exports and Employment
The International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau jointly estimate the share of state employment supported by foreign exports of manufactured goods. According to their estimates, international manufactured exports supported 31,700 of Oregon's manufacturing jobs and 39,500 non-manufacturing jobs in 2009. Overall, the estimates suggest that foreign trade supported 5.1 percent of Oregon's private-sector employment in that year.

Is that a lot? Oregon's northern neighbor Washington had a share that was tops in the nation at 8.6 percent in 2009. California and Oregon were tied at 17th place, each with 5.1 percent of private employment supplied by manufactured exports. These states, however, share at least one common feature in their export profile - foreign exports from Oregon, California, and Washington are heavy on transportation equipment, computers, and agricultural crops.

Unfortunately, data that link domestic shipments to their impact on Oregon jobs aren't readily available. Because the value of domestic shipments dwarfs the international figure, however, it's reasonable to assume that domestic manufacturers support a larger number of Oregon jobs than do foreign-bound goods.

How to Find Export Data
The Census Bureau reports and tables on commodity flows are available at www.census.gov/. Follow the links to the Economic Census then to state data and commodity flow .

Data users should read the general information in the report to learn more about the numbers. For example, the data cover shipments by portions of the mining industry, almost all of the manufacturing sector, all of wholesale trade, and catalog and mail-order retail businesses. They don't include the value of purchases by tourists from other states or interstate trade in services.

International trade data are available from the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Association via Trade Stats Express at tse.export.gov/.

For data on jobs supported by international exports, see ita.doc.gov/td/industry/otea/jobs/.